Why Mycroft Holmes in gym clothes is a sign of impending doom
TSoT gave us a scene that previously had been unthinkable. We get to see Mycroft out of his impeccable three-piece-suit. Mycroft is a man who carries an umbrella at all times, most probably to stay dry and therefore impeccably dressed in all situations - although I would not exclude the possibility of an assortment of secret weapons built into the umbrella. In TSOT we see Mycroft not only in gym clothes in the privacy of his home but also actually exercising and sweating. This is previously unthinkable behaviour and so out of character that there must be a very good reason for this scene. Of course there is the canon reference with canon-Mycroft being massively overweight and the (here quite literal) running gag “how’s the diet?” but there must be another reason for this scene. There is and it is staring us right in the face.
The answer is quite literally woven into Mycroft’s gym trousers. It’s the red stripe (of doom).
Mycroft is not wearing the only pair of black trousers with a red stripe that we see in the episode. No. They’re a very popular choice: both of the victims of the invisible man are wearing black trousers with a red stripe.
Exhibit A: Stephen Bainbridge
Exhibit B: James Sholto
Both victims who were wearing black trousers with a red stripe were stabbed in the abdomen and we are being shown Mycroft gazing at his own navel, presumably checking the results of his fitness regime.
Of course nothing in Sherlock ever fulfils only one role, there is a second reason for this and it has to do with the red stripe, or more precisely with one other person sporting such a red stripe. Not Stephen Bainbridge, he was only the practice victim. The connection is James Sholto.
Only seconds after checking his belly, Mycroft tells Sherlock that he will not be attending John’s wedding. Mycroft, the most manner oriented person in the Sherlock universe does not attend the wedding of his brother’s best friend? He won’t come to the wedding in order to stay home and spend his time on the treadmill? “Sorry I cannot come to the wedding there is a government crisis in the Far East” That’s an excuse Mycroft could reasonably serve us and we’d buy it, but jogging? There would be enough time to jog in the morning and then attend the wedding. We have seen Sherlock composing and chatting with Mrs Hudson. There would have been time. Mycroft not attending the wedding is the second completely out of character thing we are seeing in this scene. This is not a coincidence.
Why does Mycroft not attend the wedding then? Because he could meet someone he is not supposed to meet. Who hides and only comes out of hiding for John and Mary’s wedding? James Sholto, exactly.
James Sholto was involved in the death of a group of young soldiers and has lost his career over this. He is getting death threats. According to John he is a good man. John is our “good person” radar, so Sholto seems to have either fallen in with the wrong crowd or he’s been used as a fall guy to cover up something far more sinister. Sinister dealings and government business? That’s right up Mycroft’s alley. Mycroft is not supposed to meet Sholto, yet Sholto is dead set on attending the wedding, so Mycroft stays away, even though Sherlock tries to persuade him to come.
This is the longest phone call between Mycroft and Sherlock that we have ever witnessed. Also it is the most civil and seemingly normal conversation they have ever had. Some normal bantering between brothers but Mycroft genuinely - not sarcastically! - tells Sherlock to “have a lovely day” and tries to support Sherlock on what Mycroft knows to be a difficult day for Sherlock. They did not even wish each other “Merry Christmas” when they talked to each other on Christmas Eve in ASiB. Mycroft answered the phone with “Dear Lord, we’re not going to have Christmas phone calls now, are we?” The Holmes brothers do not deal in pleasantries, especially not over the phone.
In Series 3 we got quite a lot of nice moments between Mycroft and Sherlock: the rescue, playing Operation in 221B, the deduction-off and now a nice phone call. We also got to meet their parents. That is a lot of Holmes family bliss. We know this show well enough to know that all bliss is eventually going to end in tears. Prepare to be stabbed in your hearts over and over and over again.
Both Stephen Bainbridge and James Sholto had not noticed that they got stabbed; their belts hid the wound until they took them off and slowly started bleeding to death. Mycroft also does not see anything amiss when he checks his abdomen.
Yet, he seems to have been the target of backstabbing as he tells us in the trailer to HLV:
“If you go against Magnussen, then you’ll find yourself going against me”.
Mycroft has a problem. He is not only involved in the affair around James Sholto, but he is simultaneously somehow connected to Charles Augustus Magnussen.
On the surface his conversation with Sherlock in the trailer could be interpreted as Mycroft telling Sherlock to behave, to let things go because “this is government business way above your level of clearance little brother”. But if we look into Mycroft’s face and listen to his tone of voice, things change:
This is not the face of a man who is telling his brother to back off. This is the face of a man who is in deep distress and informing the world’s only consulting detective that there are obstacles in his way that he may not have anticipated. This is not Mycroft telling Sherlock “I will stop you, don’t even try going after Magnussen”. This is Mycroft telling Sherlock “be careful you could cost me my career or even my life.”
Mycroft has been stabbed and he knows it. Sherlock and John managed to save both Steven Bainbridge and James Sholto, but can they also save Mycroft?